Hendrik Finke, Kite surfer, steering the print industry through exciting times. Passionate foodie,
orphanage builder in Uganda, renewable energies explorer, web designer and programmer.
Executive Assistant to the CEO, Bertelsmann Printing Group, Hamburg.

Hendrik Finke

On the weekend, I need to get out onto the water, kitesurfing

Water plays an important part in my life; it's what makes kitesurfing so appealing – together with the sun and the beach. Although, it's also quite noisy because of the wind. I love being out on the water and having to focus 100% on myself, says Hendrik Finke, it clears my mind and helps me to switch off completely. This, he says, enables him go back to his Hamburg office on a Monday morning with renewed energy.

Hendrik Finke has been Assistant to the CEO of Bertelsmann Printing Group since the beginning of the year. For me, work has to be meaningful. I don't go to work in the morning just because I have to, but because I really enjoy my job. I think I’ve made the right career move and when I’m able to achieve things that I can feel proud of, I need no further motivation.

It wasn't always like this, however. On completing his bachelor's degree in business administration, the now 27-year-old worked for an auditing firm, but soon realized that this was not the right career for him, and that he needed to make a change. And that’s how he ended up joining the Bertelsmann subsidiary. I would never have thought that I'd now be Assistant to the CEO. Originally, I expected to find myself in a business consultancy role. But then, luckily, I got the chance to study for a master's degree in business management, including a semester in South America. His role now has given Hendrik the opportunity to set a new strategic focus, which he enjoys immensely. I am incredibly proud of the fact that I’ve been given my own project after just two months with the company. This kind of positive encouragement was just what he needed. Being given this amount of responsibility by the CEO here, has really boosted my confidence. And it goes without saying that I will also give my best to live up to the challenge. To be allowed to create something of my own from scratch so soon – I really didn’t expect that.

However, working as a relative youngster among senior executives is not always plain sailing: My biggest challenge is to get noticed and recognized. I am only 27 and Assistant to the CEO. I don't have any authority as such, but at the same time I have to talk to a lot of people and have to be visible within the division. Sometimes it can be hard to get his own ideas across to his senior colleagues and even harder to be sufficiently persuasive when it comes to having to sway a decision.

But Hendrik remains undaunted. As a skilled kite surfer, he knows how to deal with adverse winds:

I take my motivation from the exciting projects I am given, and from having to deal with all sorts of different people. I find it enormously inspiring to work together with these high-powered executives who, with all their status and professional expertise, are still really down to earth and approachable.

He also receives plenty of support and encouragement within Bertelsmann Printing Group, which is very motivating: I really appreciate people coming up to me and saying 'Hendrik, you did a great job there', and giving me honest feedback. It spurs me on to contribute my own creative ideas.

Hendrik knows that criticism is just as important as praise for his professional progress. I don't really see criticism as something negative. I always try to reflect on my mistakes and learn from them, so I can hopefully get it right the next time.

With all this drive and ambition, it is not surprising that Hendrik has chosen the print sector as his route to professional success.

Many people are talking about the death of print. The truth is that the print industry is currently going through a very interesting and incredibly turbulent phase.

We are facing new challenges every day. Print-runs are being reduced. And new printing technologies are so advanced that much cheaper machines now come close in quality to our superior but, unfortunately, also very expensive processes. Publishing houses are now embracing the digital world, which does not exactly make things easier for print. Yet, all of this is precisely the reason that Hendrik thinks the industry is an exciting place for young, talented and highly motivated people like him – and that Bertelsmann is a good place to be right now. I still have a lot to learn. I’m young and perhaps don't yet have the experience that other people might be able to contribute in this role. But I learn something new every day, and I learn all the things I need to learn in order to achieve my personal goals. And Hendrik also knows exactly what these goals are: In five years' time, I want to hold a senior position within the company; I want to be responsible for a team and have a part in shaping the industry’s future.

His professional ambitions aside, Hendrik has already made his mark in other ways. If I didn't have to worry about earning my keep for a year, I would go back to Uganda. I have already spent seven weeks there, working on an orphanage project, together with some friends from Germany. We helped build a school building, teaching children and improving the local situation. For the rest of the time, he would then love to go backpacking across Africa. He would probably take his kite along as well, and enjoy the freedom of being out on the water. With Hendrik’s determination and willingness to learn, it’s likely that he will indeed be surfing right up to the top in the not too distant future.

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